Deadline To Fund 401(k) Is Year’s End

Deadline To Fund 401(k) Is Year’s End

Contributions to individual retirement accounts can be made for the previous year up to the tax-filing deadline of the current year. But the tax deductions for 401(k) plan contributions and most other salary-deferral retirement plans usually apply only to the calendar year in which they are actually withheld from the taxpayer’s paycheck.

Here are the significant differences and how they can affect your retirement savings.

Non-401(k) Plans

The combined individual contribution limit for Roth and Traditional IRAs in tax years 2019 and 2020 is $6,000. Those aged 50 and older can make a “catch-up” contribution of an additional $1,000.

Though contributions to Traditional IRAs are tax-deductible, the deduction may be reduced or eliminated if the account holder or their spouse is covered by a retirement plan at work. The money grows tax-free while it remains in the account and is taxed at withdrawal.

Money in a Roth IRA grows tax-free and can be withdrawn tax-free in retirement. Contributions are not tax-deductible.

Income limits restrict the ability to make contributions or deduct them from taxable income.

Key Takeaways

  • Contributions to 401(k)s usually apply to the calendar year in which they are withheld from the participant’s paycheck.
  • Contributions to some types of individual retirement accounts are allowed to the October filing date of extended tax returns.
  • The self-employed’s ability to file past Dec. 31 can depend on the type of business and type of contribution.

The IRS allows contributions to IRA accounts up to Tax Day of the coming year. That’s Wednesday, April 15, 2020. The following year the deadline will fall on Thursday, April 15, 2021.

Contributions to a Simplified Employee Pension individual retirement account (SEP-IRA) are actually allowed to the October filing date of extended tax returns.

This longer deadline can allow retirement savers a more realistic calculation of what they can contribute after they have done their taxes and calculated their taxable income. According to a recent survey by GoBankingRates, about 7% of taxpayers who receive a refund sock it into retirement savings.

Deadline rules vary for 401(k) plans.

401(k) Plans

The limit on employee tax-deductible elective deferrals for most 401(k) plans is $19,000 in 2019. For 2020, the limit has been set at $19,500.

If permitted by the plan, participants 50 or older at the end of the calendar year can make additional catch-up contributions of up to $6,000 for the 2019 tax year. The limit rises to $6,500 for the 2020 tax year.

Individuals’ contributions to a 401(k) are generally due by the end of the calendar year. For instance, assume that an employee makes an election to defer part of a bonus to be received for 2019. The bonus is based on 2019 compensation, but is paid on Jan. 31, 2020. The amount deferred from the bonus will apply to the employee’s 2020 salary deferral contributions.

Plans may also vary: Contributions for a prior year may not be allowed because an employee is limited to making contributions through payroll deductions.

Employers can have longer to make matching contributions for a given year of a plan. This means that technically an employee can make 401(k) contributions as late as the deadline for their company to file its taxes, including any extensions.

This additional time becomes especially apparent in the case of self-employed savers, who might not contribute to their solo 401(k) plan for a given year until tax time the following year. The ability to do so can depend on the business type and if the contribution is by employee deferral or is a profit-sharing component.

The Bottom Line

Generally, the 401(k) has a hard contribution deadline at the end of the year. Plan participants can, however, check with their human resources department or expert to see if they permit contributions in the new year before tax time.

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